May 1, 1999
Welcome to As the CaveBear Growls.
This publication is an occasional newsletter covering topics of interest to the author, generally related to the Internet to a greater or lesser degree.
Over to the left of the screen is the catalog of issues, past and present.
I've watched and participated in the evolution of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) since the outset.
I can't say that I'm pleased.
What started out as an attempt to create an open, transparent, democratic system has, is giving strong indications that it will end up being the captive of corporate interests.
And we are not talking about "technical coordination" -- that phrase is a scrim that has been used to hide the fact that ICANN is indeed "Internet Governance".
I, personally, do not object to ICANN assuming a role of limited Internet Governance. However, I do object to such governance being exercised by a process which is neither open, transparent, nor accountable. I do object to such governance being exercised by a body which has not been elected. And I do object to such governance being exercised in a headlong fashion without even letting those bodies specifically created in ICANN for such governance be formed, much less consulted.
Here's what has happened:
Let's look at these in more detail:
The ICANN board is failing to adhere to anything resembling an open or transparent process.
These are people, all of them well meaning people, who went into the job knowing up front that the underlying ground rule was open, transparent, accountable operation. Yet, the board has held numerous meetings that are closed or adequate record to understand their decisions.
This has been excused on the grounds that "some countries don't rate openness as importance as others." OK, that's a fair comment. And it would be interesting if we were students in a sociology class.
But it does not excuse the fact that the basic premise of ICANN's operations have been compromised and negated.
I might suggest that those on ICANN's board who feel that ICANN can not have open meetings ought to simply step down and let someone else who does believe in the fundamental principle take his or her place.
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The ICANN board is an initial board. Not a single board member obtained his or her seat by an election or by appointment from a Supporting Organization.
The purpose of this temporary/interim board was to organize the membership and organize the Supporting Organizations so that a fully representative board could take over.
Yet this temporary/interim/initial board is now making substantive and essentially irreversible policy decisions on matters of great import.
This is improper.
The board's adoption of rules which create "constituencies" in the DNSO is nothing less than the drawing of DNSO voting districts, an act which is not merely substantive. Indeed it is an act so significant that it may very well prove to dictate the power structure of the DNSO and hence drive the choices and policies that the DNSO adopts over the coming years.
The original IANA proposals for ICANN imagined an ICANN that had no general membership, an ICANN that governed without any responsibility to the internet community. Through efforts of groups such as the Boston Working Group (BWG) and others, ICANN's organic documents were changed to require ICANN to create a membership structure that would elect board members.
That membership structure has not been created. Yet, ICANN is making irreversible decisions of major import. Indeed it is a fair question whether ICANN's current decisions will leave any unresolved issues for future boards, thus making future boards mere administrators of what this interim and temporary board has done.
The result is that the efforts to create a membership structure are being made illusory -- ICANN is being operated at full speed ahead, with the policy-making throttle pulled to the maximum, without even a single board member having been selected by a general membership.
The Internet Community and the United States Government approved ICANN based on the premise of a working membership structure before significant and irreversible steps are taken by ICANN.
ICANN's damn-the-membership, full speed ahead creation of substantive policy is a slap in face to all of us who worked so hard to obtain the promise of a general membership.
A petition is circulating asking ICANN's initial board to refrain from taking some of these steps. Please sign it by sending e-mail to Ellen Rony at email@example.com.
NTIA should step in and demand that ICANN make a full stop on the adoption of policy until there is a working general membership, until there are working Supporting Organizations, and until the first elected board is in place.
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Take a look at the results of their Final Report of the WIPO Internet Domain Name Process. It seems that WIPO is stuck on a believe that the Internet is merely a creation to support commercial use and that all uses of the Internet are commercial. As such, WIPO ends up becoming what it most abhors - a pirate. WIPO's rules are designed to outfit those who hold registered trade and service marks with all the tools needed for them to act as pirates and pry domain names from those who do not have registrations.
This report is very large, very complex, and very controversial. It amounts to nothing less than a de facto super-national law governing domain names and trademarks. It supersedes the laws of individual nations. It has not been passed by any national legislature, promulgated by any national executive, nor the subject of any treaty.
ICANN's initial board, a board which has not been elected by anyone, a board which is established merely to get ICANN rolling, is apparently racing, lemming-like, to adopt the Report and make it the private law of the Internet's Domain Name System.
There are those of us who have petitioned ICANN to delay adoption until an elected board is in place. We are encouraging delay until there is a functioning Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO), the organ of ICANN specifically designated as the sole forum for policy development regarding the Domain Name System.
Yet, ICANN's president says the following about those who are requesting that ICANN slow its senseless race to adopt the Report:
"The report is done, and there's absolutely no reason at this point that delay would advance anyone's interest. I think it's very unconstructive and sort of juvenile to be so arrogant as to take the position that this work is not worthy of substantive comment."
(Source: http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article/0,1087,3_116141,00.html )
In other words, those of us who want the report to be considered and adopted by exactly those bodies and those processes within ICANN that are designed for that purpose are being vilified by ICANN's temporary President.
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ICANN is rapidly carving the world up into "constituencies". This is gerrymandering of the first order.
Just what is a "constituency" -- it is akin to a political party. But unlike a political party, the members of a constituency get no direct vote, no voice. Rather that vote, that voice is owned by the constituency itself. Thus the voice of dissent, even if it is 49.999% of the constituency is drowned in the unified voice/vote of the constituency as it speaks within the DNSO.
The power to recognize what is and what is not a constituency is the power to dictate the balance of power. If, for example, whoever is recognizing constituencies wants to pack the vote in favor of businesses, that person would recognize petitions for constituencies for every flavor of business; a thousand business constituencies would bloom.
Indeed we see this predilection in the fact that there are a number of distinct constituencies already underway for domain name registries and registrars of various flavors. And this is at the same time that there is no constituency for educational bodies, none for churches, none for community groups, none for charitable groups, and none for individuals who just want to use the net to communicate or as a platform to express their opinions.
The currently proposed set of "constituencies" is not merely biased in favor of business and institutional bodies - it utterly excludes participation by individual domain name holders.
There are efforts to try to carve out some area for individuals or non-commercial domain name holders, but, even if these efforts succeed, they will be powerless against the built-in "constituencies."
And once this structure is in place, those with the power will work to prevent the creation of other constituencies because those new constituencies would dilute the power of those already existing.
Hence, the end result of ICANN's decision to structure the DNSO as constituencies is a decision that is essentially permanent and essentially forever excludes individuals or small non-commercial groups from ever having more than a mouse's squeak in the DNSO against the roar of the commercial constituencies.
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NTIA appears to be rolling over itself to give Network Solutions whatever it is that Network Solutions wants. And that seems to include the possibility of permanent ownership of the core of the domain name system and the most lucrative of the top level domains.
In addition, Network Solutions is claiming ownership of the set of names, addresses, domain expiration dates, etc that we tend to lump under the name "whois".
And NTIA is silent.
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The ICANN Membership Committee has been working long and hard hours. Its work product appears reasonable.
There is no reason to delay the creation of the general membership.
Until there is a general membership, ICANN will be no more than half an entity.
But as we have seen, the absence of board members elected by the general membership has not stopped the ICANN board from adopting substantive policies that are likely to be effectively irreversible in the future.
Thus, in order to start building a responsive Board of Directors, it is imperative that a general membership be created as soon as possible.
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